Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Grandmaster, again

Thursday September 5, 2013

The Grandmaster (American Cut) again, this time at BAM’s Harvey Theater.

Better the second time.

The main figure is rotation: of bodies, cameras, time. Rotation of wrists, fists, ankles, feet, hips, whole bodies in whirling kicks and flips. Twisted necks, craning necks—there is hardly a glance in the film that does not come from the shoulder, and that applies to the camera as well. Fighters suck each other, and the camera, in like whirlpools, in a centripidal, dervishing dance, like two galaxies orbiting each other closer and closer, exploding into indistinct shapes—limbs blurring, centers of gravity wildly shifting—as the kaleidoscopic frenzy of forces pulls them apart, until the final ecstatic moment of collision. Ip Man and Gong Er literally fall in love when, in some crazy maneuver, he throws her cartwheeling in the air, and camera spins and rotates too, on all three of its axes, so that neither he nor she seems stably in place, but both are rather rotating on the axis of the desire circulating between them, pulling them together even as it sends them flying apart, turning their worlds upside down. In the catastrophe of love, it’s not just your head that’s spinning, it’s the whole world that’s disoriented, that centrifuges out until its only you and your lover clinging to each other as you tumble spinning into the abyss of the stairwell. (I’d call it a revolution, but this would just be a stupid pun. Nothing in Wong Karwai’s world admits of this idea. For him, change, history, are geologic: there are sudden eruptions and slow erosions and when things are gone, they are gone forever and leave only the finest traces of what used to be, like great cliffs ground down into beaches by the waves.) So violent is this love/fight scene that its spatial contortions echo in time. Ip Man and Gong Er do not see each other again for 15 years, through which time we first follow Ip Man’s story and then double back to cover Gong Er's.

Seeing a movie at the Angelika is hardly seeing a movie at all.

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